The BC government spent 11-million dollars hosting the Times of India Film Awards.
When announcing the Bollywood awards show, Premier Christy Clark sold it as a huge opportunity for BC to get prime time exposure in India.
More than two years later, the question is, has it paid off?
During the January 2013 announcement of the show, Premier Christy Clark said it was well worth it.
“This event is just part of what’s going to inject millions into our economy as a result of our relationship with the Times of India Media Group. They reach over 90 million people every single day, most of the in India, and that kind of exposure can garner tremendous opportunities for people in our province.”
On the surface, it appears the awards show may have had a positive impact on tourism from India.
According to data from Tourism Vancouver, overnight travel by Indians to Greater Vancouver was up by 20.7% in 2014, and is up 10.7% so far this year.
Speaking in an interview with Times of India Media Group owned ET Now last year, Clark gave the credit to the TOIFA awards.
“I believe that that is because people, many many Indians, for the very first time, heard of Vancouver. They heard of British Columbia. The TOIFA awards were an excuse, I think, for film makers to go and look at the vistas of British Columbia, the mountains, the ocean, the beautiful cities, and I think that made a lot of people see it for the first time. It’s one of those places, like so many places in India, that once you see it, you really want to go. “
Watch Premier Christy Clark talking about TOIFA economic spin off:
Visits up across Canada
But it’s is not just Greater Vancouver that has seen a boost in tourism from India.
According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, overnight visits from India to Canada was up 19.3% in 2014, and 10.8% in 2015 so far.
So, what accounts for that change?
Turns out it’s not awards shows, but the fact it’s now easier for Indians to get visas to Canada.
Changes to the CAN+ Visa program mean Indians who have travelled to the US or Canada in the past decade no longer have to prove economic solvency to receive a visa.
According to the Commission, those changes make Canada an attractive destination for India’s fast-growing affluent middle class.
BC also continues to lag behind other provinces in attracting Indian tourists.
Other statistics from the Commission show, 67% of Indian visitors to Canada travel to Ontario, 18% visit Alberta.
BC is tied with Quebec for third place, with each province attracting around 14% of visitors.
Listen to CKNW’s Simi Sara talk with Assistant News Director Charmaine de Silva about the tourism impact of the TOIFA awards:
No other TOIFA awards held
When the awards show was first announced in 2013, it was supposed to take place annually at different locations around the world.
The news release announcing the awards notes the plan was to hold the “prestigious awards” every year, “at diverse international destinations, thus taking the charm of Hindi Cinema overseas.”
Yet, so far no other TOIFA awards has taken place.
Critics have long argued the awards show was created to pander to BC’s South Asian community in the lead up to the 2013 BC election.
No explanation from government
BC’s Tourism Minister Shirley Bond refused comment for this story.
But in a written statement, the Tourism Ministry says the awards show was “just one part of a broader strategy to enhance relationships, expand trade activities and build awareness of B.C. as a tourist destination.”